Our top 10 Live songs list digs deep into the music of an American band best known for its contribution to the alternative rock scene. The band’s origins stretch back to when drummer Chad Gracey, guitarist Chad Taylor, and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer played together under the moniker First Aid. The trio, then middle school students, went ahead to showcase its musical talent in its native land York, Pennsylvania. First Aid would take a shot at a local talent contest which they lost. This would prove to be a blessing in disguise, having prompted the trio to recruit a vocalist.
The members chose Ed Kowalczyk to be the band’s lead vocalist changing the band’s moniker to Public Affection. As Public Affection, the foursome earned a cult following issuing the record The Death of a Dictionary in 1989. Eventually, the band changed its name to Live—its members went ahead to reap the fruits of their musicianship. Under the moniker Live, the band issued a total of eight studio albums all of which made it to the Billboard 200 Chart.
At the end of 1991, Live issued their first major label debut Mental Jewelry. The album was issued through Radioactive Records under the production of Talking Heads-affiliated artist Jerry Harrison. Other musicians who issued music through Radioactive Records include Big Audio Dynamite, Black Grape, Traci Lords, and The Ramones.
Mental Jewelry was a success in the mainstream reaching a peak position of number seventy-three on the Billboard 200. The album also marked Live’s first commercially successful LP earning a gold certification in Canada and the Netherlands, and a platinum certification in the US. “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition),” “10,000 Years (Peace Is Now),” “Pain Lies on the Riverside,” and “The Beauty of Gray” are the most sought-after songs from the album.
In 1994, Live issued their album Throwing Copper through Radioactive Records. Once again, Talking Heads-affiliated musician Jerry Harrison was tasked with the production of this album. Throwing Copper is by far Live’s most conspicuous alternative rock album of all time. The album’s commercial and mainstream performances are enough testimonials for this claim.
Throwing Copper topped a number of mainstream charts including the ARIA Albums Chart, the Canada Albums Chart, and the Billboard 200. The album also climbed to the thirty-seventh spot on the UK Albums Chart. Throwing Copper is the band’s best-selling record selling over ten million records globally.
In the US alone, Throwing Copper earned platinum certification eight times. The album also earned platinum certification twice in the Netherlands, six times in New Zealand, seven times in Canada, and ten times in Australia. Throwing Copper was also commercially successful in the UK having earned a gold certification. “Lightning Crashes,” “Selling the Drama,” “All Over You,” “I Alone,” and “White, Discussion” are some of the best Live songs from the album Throwing Copper.
Live returned in 1997 with their album Secret Samadhi. The album was issued through Radioactive Records with record producer/engineer Jay Healy featured in its production works. Healy is a successful record producer/engineer who has been tasked with the production/engineering of albums by reputable artists. Some of the artists who have worked with Healy include The Jayhawks, Cher, Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross, Boyz II Men, and Tina Arena.
Secret Samadhi also climbed atop the Billboard 200 Chart and Canadian Albums Chart. The album made it to position thirty-one on the UK Albums Chart. Secret Samadhi is a two-time RIAA platinum-certified record. The album also earned platinum certification in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. “Lakini’s Juice,” “Freaks,” “Rattlesnake,” and “Turn My Head” are the most popular songs from the album.
The Distance to Here, issued in 1999, marked the band’s fourth major label studio album. This album saw the band reunite with Talking Heads-affiliated musician Jerry Harrison in production. The Distance to Here rose atop the ARIA Albums Chart and Canadian Albums Chart. The album made it to the fourth spot on the Billboard 200 Chart rising to the fifty-sixth spot on the UK Albums Chart. This platinum-certified record is home to some of the best Live songs such as “The Dolphin’s Cry,” “Run to the Water,” “They Stood Up for Love,” and “Dance with You.”
Live returned in 2001 with their album V. V marked the band’s fifth major label studio album. The album made it to the top spot on the New Zealand, Australian, Norwegian, and Dutch Albums Chart. V also made it to the Billboard 200 and UK Albums Chart peaking at number twenty-two and eighty, respectively.
The album was fairly successful earning gold certification in Australia, New Zealand, and Belgium. V earned a platinum certification in the Netherlands. “Simple Creed,” “Overcome,” “Forever May Not Be Long Enough,” and “Like a Soldier” are some of the best Live songs from the album V.
In 2003, Live issued the album Birds of Pray. The album marked the end of Live’s stint issuing albums through Radioactive Records. Birds of Pray was produced by Jim Wirt, a record producer best known for his work with Incubus, A Skylit Drive, Buffalo Killers, and The Automatics.
Birds of Pray find Live taking on a blend of alternative rock, hard rock, and post-grunge. The album rose to the twenty-eighth spot on the Billboard 200 Chart. Birds of Pray also climbed to position one hundred and ninety-nine on the UK Albums Chart. “Heaven,” “Run Away,” and “Sweet Release” are some of the most popular songs by Live.
In 2006, Live returned with their album Songs from Black Mountain. The album was issued through Epic Records under the production of Jim Wirt. Other artists who have issued music through Epic Records include AC/DC, Bad English, Mariah Carey, Kaleidoscope, and Tears for Fears. Songs from Black Mountain made it to position fisty-two on the Billboard 200 Chart.
The album also made it to the UK Albums Chart peaking at number one hundred and seventy-two. Songs from Black Mountain also climbed into the ARIA Albums Chart, peaking at number four. The album was gold-certified in Australia. “Mystery,” “The River,” and “Wings” are the best Live songs from the album.
Eight years later, Live issued their eighth major label album The Turn. The album was issued through Think Loud Recordings under the production of Jerry Harrison. The Turn made it to position one hundred and thirty-three on the Billboard 200 Chart. Some of the popular songs by Live from The Turn include “Siren’s Call,” “The Way Around Is Through,” and “6310 Rodgerton Dr.”
Did Live the Band Break Up?
Since the issue of their 2014 album The Turn, Live members have not made any major release. However, the band has been active albeit with singer Ed Kowalczyk being its only member. This is after the singer fired his fellow bandmates in 2022. The band has been touring, though performing at smaller venues.
#10- Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)
While there might have been “better” songs to introduce us to our top 10 Live songs list, we opted to go with “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition).” Earliest fans of the band Live will definitely resonate with this pick. The song is among the earliest hits that catapulted the band to mainstream appeal and success. “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” is delivered on a rhythmic groove.
The energetic drumming by drummer Gracey and pompous basslines from bassist Taylor give this song’s rhythm sections quite an anthemic feel. “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” climbed to the ninth spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart. The song features a music video directed by George Seminara.
Seminara has also directed music videos to songs by The Ramones, Snow, and Darlene Love. Of course, some Live fans will prefer the energetic track “Pain Lies on the Riverside.” Indeed, the song “Pain Lies on the Riverside” rivals our tenth pick for the title of the best Live song from Mental Jewelry. Sadly, we can’t have every great song on our limited and absolutely subjective list.
#9- Turn My Head
“Turn My Head” is one of the fan-favorite picks from the band’s album Secret Samadhi. This alternative rock track finds the band going a tad bit slower on the groove. Lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk gives us a taste of his dreamy vocals. The song features contributions on the string by Doug Katsaros. Doug is also known for his contribution to the music careers of Michael Bolton, Sinead O’Connor, Kiss, Cher, and Bon Jovi, to name a few.
“Turn My Head” was a mainstream success reaching position forty-five on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay Chart. The song also climbed to the third spot on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. “Turn My Head” features two music videos, one directed by Mary Lambert (who worked with Motley Crue, Madonna, and Janet Jackson, among others) and the other by Jake Scott (who worked with, Radiohead, The Verve, and Soundgarden, to name a few.
#8- Run to the Water
Coming in at number eight on our top 10 Live songs list is the luscious hit “Run to the Water.” The song is featured on the band’s album The Distance to Here. “Run to the Water” is a spiritual rock anthem to the oneness of the human race in consciousness as revealed by the band’s lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk.
Adding to his explanation, Ed mentioned that he is quite drawn to water since it’s the traditional metaphor for spirit. “Run to the Water” climbed to the fourteenth spot on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. The song features a music video worked on by German director Martin Weisz. Weisz has also worked with other artists including LL Cool J, Brandy, Nickelback, and Puff Daddy.
“Overcome” is a fan-favorite pick from the band’s album V. According to lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk, the hit “Overcome” is the perfect emblem of Live’s music in the album V. His reason for this claim was that he never in his life had imagined anything like the September 11 attack. Live members sympathized with the affected by donating the proceeds from the sales of “Overcome” to charities.
The song was a mainstream success climbing to the thirtieth spot on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. “Overcome” also made it to the ARIA Singles Chart, peaking at position sixty-eight. The song features a pro bono music video by Mary Lambert and a Steven Rosenbaum-directed version (that earned heavy rotation on MTV).
Coming in at number six on our top 10 Live songs list is the impressive hit “Heaven.” The song was issued as the first single of the band’s album Birds of Pray. “Heaven” was a song penned by vocalist Ed Kowalczyk finding inspiration from the birth of his daughter Ana. Ed revealed that the birth of Ana brought him a special kind of understanding. He continued to cite the song “Heaven” as the embodiment of the band’s album Birds of Pray.
The song is the final track by Live to have made it to the Billboard Hot 100. “Heaven” made it to position fifty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100. The song features two music videos, the first directed by Arni & Kinski and the second directed by Peter Van Eyndt.
#5- Lakini’s Juice
Secret Samadhi is home to the fifth pick on our top 10 Live songs list, “Lakini’s Juice.” The song finds the band striking a balance between alternative rock and hard rock influences. “Lakini’s Juice” has lyrics alluding to obsession, as the dark side of love. The title of the song references the Hindu goddess of destruction, “Lakini.”
“Lakini’s Juice” was a mainstream success rising atop the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. The song also climbed to the twenty-ninth spot on the UK Singles Chart. “Lakini’s Juice” features a music video directed by Gavin Bowden. Gavin has also directed music videos by other artists including Lifehouse, Finger Eleven, Lit, David Cook, and Rage Against the Machine.
#4- Selling the Drama
“Selling the Drama” is by far one of the most successful singles by Live. The song is featured on the band’s album Throwing Copper. “Selling the Drama” has its lyrics referencing Kowalczyk’s wrestling with the idea of Live rise from just a popular band in York, Pennsylvania to becoming among the emblems of the ‘90s alternative rock scene.
The song went ahead to reach feats Live had never got to before starting by rising atop the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. “Selling the Drama” went ahead to become the band’s first song to grace the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number thirty and forty-three, respectively.
#3- The Dolphin’s Cry
Ranking third on our top 10 Live songs is the captivating hit “The Dolphin’s Cry.” The song is by far the best song from the band’s album The Distance to Here. Lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk revealed that the song is about things getting quiet enough that one hears something like “The Dolphin’s Cry.”
The song was a mainstream success rising to the seventy-eighth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. “The Dolphin’s Cry” also climbed to position sixty-two on the UK Singles Chart. The song was gold-certified in Australia. Live tasked German film and music video director Martin Weisz with directing this song’s music video.
#2- I Alone
“I Alone” is yet another impressive hit from the band’s most successful album Throwing Copper. The song is one of the archetypical post-grunge-tinged releases by Live. “I Alone” finds lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk using religious imagery to epitomize his expedition for knowledge. Some of the lyrics in the song reference verses in the Bible.
Some of the band’s fans classified the track “I Alone” as a love song. However, Ed revealed that the song’s theme encompasses a greater message other than love strictly. The song is inspired by the teaching he obtained that truth must be self-sought rather than taking word for word the claims of other people.
“I Alone” reached position forty-eighth on the UK Singles Chart. The song also climbed to the thirty-eighth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay Chart. “I Alone” features a music video directed by Tim Pope. Film/music video director Tim Pose has also worked with a number of artists including The Stranglers, Men Without Hats, Soft Cell, The Cars, and Neil Young.
#1- Lightning Crashes
Number one on our top 10 Live songs is the tempestuous hit “Lighting Crashes.” The song is the most sought-after track from the band’s album Throwing Copper. “Lighting Crashes” is a song penned by Live’s lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk as a dedication to his late high school buddy Barbara Lewis who succumbed to injuries from a car collision.
The late Barbara Lewis lives to be a hero for many (especially her friends) having donated some organs including her heart. “Lighting Crashes” was a mainstream success rising atop the Billboard Alternative Airplay and Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts. The song also made it to the UK Singles Chart climbing to the twelfth spot.
“Lighting Crashes” climbed to position thirty-three on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay Chart. The song features a music video directed by British film/music video director Jake Scott. Jake has also worked with a number of artists including U2, Tori Amos, Soundgarden, and Radiohead.
Feature Photo: Gitman00 at en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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